My son’s orchestra teacher sent him home with an assignment this past weekend: Film your practice space and tell me why it inspires you or helps you focus while you practice. The resulting two-minute video showed my son leading a very limited tour of one corner of our den where his viola and guitar lessons and practices routinely take place. Showing his teacher that the area was comfortable, brightly lit, teeming with musical instruments (my husband is a guitar collector), with enough room for his music stand, not to mention easy access for our nosy standard poodle to hang out, earned him an A. The point of the exercise, I believe, was to make kids aware that where they practice their instruments affects how much and how well they do it.
Given that I’ve spent most of my life looking for that perfect work space for my at-home reading and editing, I found this assignment charming. My ideal situation would be a quiet, well-lit room, with little to no through-traffic, a comfortable chair—with ottoman for stretching out—a nice side table to stack papers and nearby shelves to keep supplies at easy reach. The most important thing about this platonic ideal of a work space would be nothing that could create a distraction from the task at hand. In my H.G. Wells moments, I envision some kind of force field that completely neutralizes iPads, Kindles, iPhones, laptops, televisions, etc., while in the room—basically the room equivalent of noise cancelling headphones.
My reality is a corner of my living room or my bedroom with multiple, every few minutes, interruptions from my husband looking for something only I know where he put, my son listening to the baseball game (or Sponge Bob) loudly nearby, the dog needing to be let out every time someone walks past our house so she can bark at them and then ask to be let back into the house again, my parents calling, texts making my iPhone buzz…. You get the idea.
And this is just me trying to edit, not write. Which is why I really enjoyed this piece by Victoria Patterson in The Millions. There’s nothing new about the need writers have for a space conducive to their writing—just ask Virginia Woolf—but these days, when our attentions are so under siege, it’s especially important to find that one place you can get down to the business of creativity.
What’s your writing space like?